For the next couple of months Team Captain and 2011 Worlds Masters Champion Jon Baldwin will be on the road and on tour. Jon will be sharing his experiences on the road by posting updates here. Check back or subscribe to the DGA blog to keep up to date. Make sure to head over Jon Baldwin’s website to check out what’s going on, what’s in his bag, Lessons, Instructions and more!
From Charlotte Worlds, we headed out for Moraine and Knob Hill, our tournament courses in Pittsburgh. I was excited because I had never driven through the Appalachian Mountains. Looking at the maps and satellite view, they have a very ribbon like appearance, and it was very cool to see them in person. We had epic weather, violent lightning and thunder, a few of the strikes seemed within a hundred feet. The rain was torrential, I was enjoying it, but Shasta was driving and it was obviously stressful driving. He fought through and made it to Knob Hill Disc Golf Course about 8 hours after leaving Charlotte.
When we showed up, there were others gathering and they let us know doubles would be starting. Five dollar dubs is a pretty common thing for us to do, and seemed like a way to see a little more of the course than you would by yourself, so we played. The course was very technical. Narrow gaps through trees, and a good amount of elevation. The middle of the course plays through some grassy fairways with demanding, sloped greens. The end also finishes with a few holes with more grassy than tree’d fairways. The last hole is about a 470′ uphill hole with the basket perched on a very steep grassy slope that goes down and to the left, exactly where a disc wants to hyzer as it tries to reach the ground. At the bottom of the 80′ slope was an out of bounds road. A very difficult pin to approach. Sidearm shots hyzer into the hill, and can often roll long or bounce off a tree and end up in the road. It might have been my favorite hole there, and it proved to be pivotal as a couple local players tied yours truly and my partner for first place.
Doubles was fun and we found out the tournament would be played from the long tees, so we took a look at them as well. On some holes, the longs changed the hole from a par 3 to a par 4, adding 100 or more feet, and a few degrees of difficulty. The challenge of the course let us know our work was cut out for us.
The next morning we headed out to Moraine State Park Disc Golf Course, north of Pittsburgh. The park was huge, with acreage on the north and south shore of a large lake. I have to admit, I loved this course. There were some long, challenging fairways, beautifully carved out of the woods, and some long grassy fairways lined with dense shrubbery that could be tough to get out of should you errantly throw in. My favorite hole was hole 6, I think. It was about 900′, par 5 and imagine a 70′ swath through the woods, grassy fairway, with the middle 30′ having sparse trees in it and 20′ on either side being clear. You had to decide which side you wanted to throw on, or navigate a route that utilizes the full width by going through the trees. It is a beautiful hole to look at, and a lot of fun to play, especially if you play it well.
While at Moraine, we got to meet the tournament director, Scott Hartell. He gave us the news that he had found us a host for the weekend, which pleased us greatly, as there happened to be a convention in town and all the hotels were booked pretty full and more expensive than we were used to. After a quick break we decided to join Scott for some more practice on the back nine. It was good to play some of the holes with a local, and especially one who was running the event. Afterwards we decided to join Scott for a trip to a local brewery for a pint and some food. The place was packed and had great ales on tap as well as some pretty good food. Following dinner we were off to the home of Joe and Deb Busche, who along with their sons, Jackson and Damien, had agreed to host us for the tournament.
They lived about an hour south of Moraine, in a suburb of Pittsburgh. We were very lucky as each son gave up their room for us to stay in while they shared a spare room. Joe and Deb made us feel right at home and Joe even let us play a few games of pool on his brand new tournament size pool table. Shasta said it was the nicest table he had ever played on, and he has spent a lot of time in Fast Eddie’s, a local Santa Cruz pool hall. A beer or two and some 9 ball games later and we were in bed, sleeping away the night after a long, full day.
In the morning it became clear why this family might want to host a couple touring pro disc golfers. Their sons are huge fans of the sport. They own all of the Marshall Street and Vibram DVDs. They know all the players and the courses, holes, everything. It was really great to see such young fans of the sport. They had a practice basket and their own 18 hole layout in the yard. They were very interested in us and our knowledge of the game. We promised them a putting lesson later in the week, and they let us know that they were really looking forward to it.
We spent the next few days practicing the courses and getting ready for the event. Joe and the boys would come with us and we would all play the course together. In my mind, there is no doubt that Jackson and Damien will be good golfers. They already are in their age group, and I think they picked up a thing or two watching us play. They even watched us once the tournament started. I haven’t seen kids their age behave quite so well for an extended period of time. The rounds we played were probably about 4 hours long during the event, and they remained quiet and attentive the whole time.
The Friday before the event, the Busche’s told us of a place we could visit if we wanted to see some of the local sites. We headed towards downtown and after some tricky navigation ended up at the “incline” or a train track that goes up and downhill to the riverfront area, with a train like car that fits about 12 people at a time. It drops you off near a transit mall with bars, stores and restaurants. We enjoyed a beer at a riverfront bar with a beautiful view of the downtown waterfront. Pretty cool spot. Cool enough that we spent the better part of the evening there. A great stop on our journey! Now, back to the event.
I ended up taking 3rd place in Masters coming up 5 strokes short of Michael Stonestreet who won, and 2 strokes behind Bobby Jones who took second. I really enjoyed meeting an playing with the local masters players and loved the two courses we played. Pittsburgh disc golf is happening! Good people and great courses mean that I will be back any chance I get.
After the tournament, Joe and Deb graciously offered to let us stay over Sunday night and take our time moving on to the next stop on our tour. We spent some time with them on Monday morning following through with the putting lessons for Damien and Jackson. They were pretty anxious to start and I decided to get right to it. The main things that I wanted to teach them were the concepts of weight transfer during the putting motion, and that you need to practice at the distance away from the basket that you start to miss putts. Start close, and gradually back up to the point that you start to miss, and focus your efforts at that distance. Well, after just a little effort to get those two points across, they were both putting better and more consistently than they had all week. At one point Jackson hit about 7 in a row from about 25-30 feet.
Wow, he was doing awesome! And we had also cured Damien from his “running” putt. His mini marker was previously a starting point, not ending point, for his run-up. So once we worked on his weight shift, he didn’t need to run-up any more, he was making them from a good 10-15 feet, but with proper and legal technique.
We really had a nice stay with the Busche’s and we both left them with some DGA discs as a small token of our appreciation. We also utilized our connection with DGA to help the family purchase a new DGA Mach V that Damien and Jackson saved for over a year to buy and finally were able to purchase! I elected to get them a few DGA discs with the basket as well, because I know they will enjoy throwing the 150 gram DGA Squalls! I look forward to hearing about their soon to come tournament success.
Next up – The Brent Hambrick Memorial- Columbus, Ohio.